KINGSTON – If the rain which affected the Corporate Area and other sections of the island yesterday is an indication of the effects of Hurricane Matthew, Jamaica will be in for a battering when the storm gets closer to land today.
Spanish Town Road, Marcus Garvey Drive, Seaview Gardens, Hagley Park Road, Constant Spring Road, and Chelsea Avenue were among the areas of the Corporate Area where heavy flooding was reported yesterday.
The Meteorological Service, which maintained its hurricane warning yesterday, said the parishes of Portland, St Thomas, St Mary, Kingston, St Andrew, St Catherine, and St Ann are the parishes which are expected to get the brunt of the rain and winds from the powerful Category four hurricane.
Local Government Minister Desmond McKenzie told a press conference at the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) that the rain yesterday was an indication that the effects of the hurricane could be catastrophic, and he appealed to residents of Port Royal, Taylor Lands, and other low-lying areas to take the warnings seriously and evacuate by last night.
The physical infrastructure of the country, he said, would not be able to manage the amount of rain expected.
Jamaica Urban Transit Company buses were provided to remove people evacuating their homes in the Corporate Area to the National Arena, which up to late afternoon was still awaiting its first ‘guest’. A total of 900 shelters have been opened islandwide to accommodate people seeking refuge.
Government, in the meantime, has ordered that all schools be closed today to ensure the safety of children and staff during the passage of the hurricane. Education Minister Senator Ruel Reid said a number of schools are being used as shelters, so their reopening would depend on the impact of the hurricane.
“Please note that all schools that function as disaster relief centres should put in safe keeping all important documents and educational materials. Those schools that serve as relief centres are to be prepared to facilitate arrangements for delivery of supplies on their premises.
“We encourage school administrators to stay tuned to the media in order to receive regular updates from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information as the situation unfolds over the next two days.” The safety of our children and all Jamaicans is at this time most paramount,” said Senator Reid.
Matthew, which was last night inching closer to Kingston and the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince, had maximum sustained winds of 230 km/h (145 mph), with higher gusts, making it a dangerous Category Four hurricane.
Hurricane-force winds extended outward up to 55 km (35 miles) from the centre and tropical storm-force winds extend up to 335 km (205 miles).
According to the National Meteorological Service, Matthew is expected to produce total rainfall accumulations of:
• 250-500 mm (10-20 in) primarily across eastern parishes (St Mary, Portland, St Thomas, and Kingston and St Andrew), with isolated amounts of 600 mm (25 in) over higher elevations, and
• 50-100 mm (2-4 in) across western and central parishes with isolated accumulations of 150 mm (6 in).
These rainfall amounts will produce extensive flooding and trigger dangerous landslides, the Met Service warned last night.
St Mary, Portland, St Thomas, Kingston and St Andrew, and St Catherine started yesterday to experience gusty winds as Matthew moved closer to Jamaica’s eastern-most point, and tropical storm conditions were expected to begin over these parishes last tonight.